Football, France: Happy French return to reality

THE FRENCH league season kicked off last night with the country still basking in the euphoria that greeted their first World Cup triumph.

Two goals from Zinedine Zidane and a third from Arsenal's Emmanuel Petit against Brazil brought a million fans on to the Champs-Elysees to celebrate victory in the final last month - and France was transformed, at least for the time being, into a football-crazy nation.

But, when it comes to domestic competition, the star names are noticeable by their absence. Of the 11 men who started the final, only one still earns his salary in the French league - the Monaco goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.

However, Monaco may face a struggle to keep Barthez following his starring role in the finals. He and his fellow French squad members, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, have all been linked with moves. Monaco began their campaign in far-off Brittany last night, visiting Lorient, newcomers to the top flight.

Monaco may be known across the world over as a playground of the rich, but the French title is currently in the possession of Lens, a small northern town built on coal and perhaps more familiar with England's travelling fans this summer.

The proud little club, whose ground staged several World Cup games, including England's victory over Colombia and France's 1-0 golden-goal win over Paraguay, also fear a raid on their title-winning squad, with the Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe a recent target for Manchester United. The champions begin their campaign today with a trip to Toulouse.

Auxerre, deprived of the talents of last season's top European scorer Stephane Guivarc'h, now at Newcastle, launch their quest with a trip to Rennes today. They must also make changes at the back with Lionel Charbonnier, one of Barthez's understudies at France 98, now on the Rangers payroll. But they can still field Bernard Diomede, a bit-part midfield player in the French World Cup squad.

Nantes visit Marseilles, who boast the services of Christophe Dugarry. The experienced striker scored France's first goal of the tournament against South Africa and came on as a substitute against Brazil in the final - but he was lampooned in French television's version of Spitting Image for his profligacy in front of goal with a series of cruel sketches.

Also at the Stade Velodrome is Laurent Blanc, who starred in the stout French defence as well as scoring the golden goal winner against Paraguay. But the veteran missed out on the final, after being sent off after a skirmish with Croatia's Slaven Bilic in the semi-final. Marseilles' third World Cup man, although he was on the fringes, is Robert Pires, signed from Metz in the close season. The former Middlesbrough man Fabrizio Ravanelli remains one of their options up front.

The Corsican outfit Bastia host Montpellier while Nancy entertain newly- promoted Sochaux, who won the Portsmouth centenary tournament last weekend, and Strasbourg meet Lyon.

Bordeaux, the club where Zidane blossomed before moving to Juventus, host another team likely to do well, Paris St-Germain, whose only representative in Jacquet's squad was the former West Ham goalkeeper Bernard Lama.

PSG have strengthened their hand under their new coach Alain Giresse with the signing of the Nigerian World Cup playmaker Jay-Jay Okocha for a French record pounds 11m from the Turkish side, Fenerbahce.

France's first domestic season as world champions actually got under way last night in the unremarkable setting of the northern port town, Le Havre, where the home side played host to Metz one and a half hours before Monaco were due to take the field at Lorient - a scene far removed from the Stade de France.

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?